Christo Wiese stages his latest takeover at launch of his biography
It’s not often that a multibillionaire who's the subject of your unauthorised biography pitches up at the launch.
But that's what happened to TJ Strydom on Thursday night, when Christo Wiese turned up in the front row of the Cape Town launch of Christo Wiese: Risk and Riches.
Not only that: the 77-year-old business legend took the mic and to some extent monopolised the event in front of a capacity audience at The Book Lounge in Roeland Street.
And he took the opportunity to repeat his denials that he had any knowledge of the events at Steinhoff that put a massive dent in his wealth and led to his R59bn lawsuit against the company.
"Once I knew exactly what [former Steinhoff CEO Markus] Jooste was doing, I saw the fraud in the finest details," said Wiese.
"When I saw what he had done was build a major ponzi scheme I wrote the cheque for R59bn and put it in."
Wiese had been invited by Strydom and his publishers, Tafelberg, to attend the launch, and the author — a business reporter for the Sunday Times — said having him there had been daunting.
"But as I unpacked in my book, he's an interesting guy and he'd probably disagree with you but he'd do it in an nice fashion," said Strydom.
The evening was intended as a conversation between the author and James Styan, but almost all questions directed at Strydom about the details of Wiese's life were fielded by the businessman himself.
While most most of the questions resulted in Wiese providing colourful anecdotes, having him present made it harder for Styan to ask Strydom the more difficult questions about Wiese's involvement in the Steinhoff scandal.
After Strydom explained that to him it would not make sense that Wiese would have known about what Jooste was doing, Wiese got up to explain in more detail.
"I never expected it, and there were people more intelligent than me who also did not work it out," he said.
Wiese did not authorise the biography so it would not be surprising to see his version of his life some time in the future.
"I think TJ did a good job and I think the juicy and amusing stories are stories I would like to tell to one day, if I get around to it," he said.
One story he did confirm was about his 40th birthday celebration, when his wife concealed four diamonds in vetkoek served to the celebrating throng. "We only found one of them," he said.